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Posted on: March 12, 2019

The Art of Handspinning Wool

The human act of handspinning natural fibers into yarn predates written history. Today, every Orley Shabahang signature carpet continues to employ this method to make its artisan rugs.

A woman in an Iranian village is handspinning wool using a drop spindle.

Handspun wool is a critical step in Orley Shabahang’s process. Without it, our carpets would neither be as durable nor as multi-hued. Including this labor intensive step in our approach to carpet making is why we can make the modern heirlooms of tomorrow. While handspinning wool is more expensive than machine-aided techniques, the result is the far richer quality that sets Orley Shabahang carpets apart.

Two women sit side-by-side, handspinning wool using a drop spindles.

When handspinning wool, Orley Shabahang uses the drop spindle approach to achieve its required specifications. Taking a closer look at the apparatus, one will see a notched metal rod with a metal claw at its base. The sheared sheep’s wool is fed into the notch, and as the tip spins, a ball of yarn begins to form around the claw.

A closeup view of wooled drop spindle in handspinner's hands as she is preparing for the handspinning.

Handspinning twists the wool uniquely, resulting in an uneven diameter, or denure, which also causes the density of wool to change throughout the ball of yarn. This irregularity contributes to the durability of the carpet, as it allows the wool to maintain its original tensile strength and the varying knot sizes lock together to better distribute any external force on the pile.

After handspinning the wool, skeins are being prepared for the natural dye process.

This asymmetry also allows each strand to absorb the dye differently, creating an appealing striated color called abrash. The irregular denure in turn produces a carpet pile with greater depth and texture and more interesting hues than ordinary contemporary production methods.

After handspinning and dyeing the wool with natural vegetable dyes, the effects of abrash (a natural striation of color) become more apparent.

Orley Shabahang follows many ancient techniques when making the antiques of tomorrow. Handspinning the lanolin-rich wool that goes into an Orley Shabahang carpet is one example of this. To experience the difference an Orley Shabahang carpet makes under your feet, visit or call your local retailer. To contact us online, send an e-mail to [email protected]